Stalin’s Nose by Rory MacLean
This month we discussed a very original travel book .We then had the pleasure of meeting its author- Rory MacLean. Rory is currently living in Berlin and working on a book about Berlin in the style of William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns- which is a brilliant portrait of the city of Delhi. As Rory loves Berlin – it’s his favourite city – it’s bound to be an insightful and amusing depiction of our city. It will be fascinating to see his take on Berliners as his books are full of wonderfully eccentric characters.
Rory initially trained as a film-maker and scriptwriter, working with David Hemmings and Ken Russell in London, Marlene Dietrich in Paris and David Bowie in Berlin. But he later chose not to write screenplays. He told us he realised that he would have been writing for commercial reasons and not from the heart.
Then in 1989 he submitted a story on Prague to the first ‘Independent’ newspaper travel writing competition and won. That lead to a commission to write a book on eastern Europe. Then Gorbachev was kind enough to knock down the Berlin Wall, making his subject highly topical.
Fifteen years after his first visit to Berlin he returned to Germany. His wonderful Austrian aunt Zita (based on his real Aunt Ruth) was his main inspiration for his own odyssey across central and Eastern Europe. His characters are closely modelled on real characters and are often composites of two or three people. Zita is not a composite, she is one hundred percent herself. But she was such a larger than life character that Rory feels she could even have been slightly underplayed.